So You Want My Job

Sara Ivanisevic, co-owner of Old East Village Fitness, sheds light on realities of being a personal trainer 

SARA IVANISEVIC, 27, is co-owner of Old East Village Fitness. She and fiancé, Jakob Fowler, opened the ­business three years ago and have moved twice to ­accommodate growth. Both worked as personal trainers for a handful of other companies before opening their own gym.

A London native, she graduated from H.B. Beal Secondary School and Fanshawe College. “I love this city,” she says. “A lot of my friends and family are still here.” When she’s not working, she enjoys travel, CrossFit, mixed martial arts, frequenting restaurants with friends and hanging out at home.

She and Fowler have two Rottweilers and plan to marry next July.

How long have you been a personal trainer, and when and why did you decide it was something you wanted to do?

I’ve been a personal trainer for eight years. My dad was a big influence, teaching Judo as a brown belt and having gym equipment in our basement growing up. I remember doing bicep curls and punching a speed bag at age six. I was always encouraged to be strong both physically and mentally.

Fitness and sports have always come naturally for me. I knew it was a passion from the start. Helping people release energy, determine clear goal-setting and bringing overall wellness to their lives is something I am proud to be a part of.

Lots of people have worked with trainers or have an idea of what they do. How do you describe your job?

To be a coach, you must be able to listen to your clients, be empathetic and quick on your feet for alternative programming. Continuing education, reading books and listening to podcasts are key to being confident with the role.

A person is trusting you to avoid injuries, correct their form to move properly, give nutritional guidance and be an outlet of support for other advice and stressors day to day they may be dealing with. Not to mention the pressure to keep them motivated and consistent with getting results and goal-setting.

Most trainers work for someone else, but you opened Old East Fitness Village Fitness in 2015. Why?

After being in the industry a number of years, most trainers would agree a ton of hours daily are allotted to trying to gain additional clients, programming homework and continuing education. This consists of a lot of unpaid hours daily. Eventually, I recognized if I had to put in the time, I might as well be working toward growing my own business. Policies are very strict with most commercial gyms for personal trainers who are expected to meet monthly sales goals. I am thrilled to offer our staff flexibility to grow by marketing themselves however they wish, but we maintain a zero-pressure atmosphere to bring in new members.

Why in the Old East Village?

In 2015, a lot of new businesses were starting in OEV. The rent was affordable, but better yet, we knew this area was up-and-coming. We started at a perfect time to build the success that we have today. We outgrew our first two locations and now have a 5,000-square-foot space.

Do you have a degree?

I graduated from Fanshawe for 911 telecommunications. I wanted to be a police officer after finishing high school, so it was a small step to realizing that exercise and nutrition are my main loves of life.

Trainers tend to be transient. What’s the job market like?

This line of work takes a lot of effort and time to build yourself up to full-time paid hours. It totally pays off, but those lacking passion to coach certainly don’t last in the field.

As a gym owner, what’s your work/life balance like?

Work is my life. I do it because I want to, not because I need to. I am happy we’ve created something we just can’t stop talking or thinking about. Thankfully, we now have management staff to oversee the business to allow me to turn off when downtime seems necessary.

What’s the best part of your career?

Showing people their true potential of living pain-free and being happy with their bodies. Being around like-minded people, having fun with my employees and members and having flexibility with my schedule to live the life I’ve always wanted.

The worst part?

As the owner, a lot of people desire my attention. With hundreds of members, it is challenging to aid everyone knowing other staff members can equally help them as well. I am only one person and this career can be emotionally draining, leaving my own self-care to sometimes sacrifice along the way.

What’s the biggest misconception about personal training in general?

That results happen overnight. Yes, you can attain noticeable results within a few weeks of hard work, but if we lack consistency long-term, then keeping those results is rare. Training is only one component to change. Solid nutrition and adequate sleep will bring optimal results.

What’s your relationship with tattoos?

Tattoos allow a person to express themselves! Maybe a memory, a favourite thing or perhaps you just think it looks trendy. Whatever your reason, I say go for it if it makes you feel good.  Interview by Christopher Clark